Keeping Our Community Safe: Take Back Day 2017
On the morning of October 28, Bridget S. Aliaga, MPH, Upper
Valley Substance Misuse Continuum of Care Facilitator at Dartmouth-Hitchcock
Medical Center, and Detective Callie Barrett, a City of Lebanon Police Officer,
staffed a table and a disposal bin at Quail Hollow Senior Living Community in
West Lebanon as residents and other community members brought their unused and
out-of-date medications for disposal. The local event was part of the 14th
National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Since the first Take Back Day in
September 2010 the program has collected more than 4,000 tons of unused
prescription drugs across the country. According to its website, the program
“aims to provide a safe, convenient, and responsible means of disposing of
prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential
for abuse and medications,” and if numbers are any indication, it has been
Aliaga joined the Community Health Improvement Department at Dartmouth-Hitchcock this past July, but the medical center’s active focus on collecting unused prescription drugs began in 2013 with the establishment of pharmaceutical drop boxes in the lobbies of the police departments of Lebanon, Hanover, Enfield, and Canaan. This initiative evolved in 2015 when ALL Together, a coalition of Dartmouth-Hitchcock employees and community volunteers, established the Twin State Safe Meds campaign as a collaborative effort between numerous organizations across New Hampshire and Vermont to promote the use of these drop boxes which are always available for the community to use. The Take Back Day events are established to raise awareness about the initiative while also providing a convenient location for older or less mobile residents who may not have easy access to the police departments.
Aliaga says the benefit of the initiative is widespread. “I think the most important thing is to view the big picture of Take Back Day efforts – the idea that the single day take back events, and the 24/7 community disposal boxes, build a combined system for safe and environmentally appropriate disposal of unused meds.” She argues that, while the events themselves serve people who prefer the twice-yearly model of a dedicated drop-off, they also help to promote the drop boxes to encourage safe disposal year-round. Aliaga hopes these initiatives continue to reduce the harms that can be caused by unused medications. Thus far, she says, they have been successful, giving people a safe and accessible method of ensuring unwanted drugs are handled properly and cannot be misused.
Jacqui Baker, a Substance Misuse Prevention Coordinator who also works in Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Community Health Improvement Department, agrees. “The Take Back Day program is a piece of a bigger movement to change norms around prescription medications – working to use them safely, store them safely, and dispose of them safely when they are no longer needed.” Baker emphasizes that success comes from a concerted effort among individuals, organizations, and initiatives like drop boxes and events, noting that “it’s exciting to have many hands-on deck to tackle this issue.”
Dave Nelson, resident at Quail Hollow was grateful for the event. “Most seniors have been raised to believe that you can simply flush old medications down the drain. This program has brought awareness to the issue of safe drug disposal.” He added, “It is a good, free service that should be taken advantage of.”
After the Quail Hollow event, Detective Barrett went to Rogers House to continue collecting. Aliaga and Barrett collected 64.2 pounds of prescription drugs between the two sites, according to Lebanon Chief of Police Richard Mello. Chief Mello believes the event was successful, affirming that traveling to the two locations was helpful for residents of both communities (in the past the event has been held at the police department). National numbers are not yet available for the most recent Take Back Day, but in May of this year the national initiative collected a record-high 450 tons of unused prescription drugs across nearly 5,500 locations. Thanks to the city’s Police Department and DHMC, Lebanon is doing its part to contribute to these efforts.
Note: In addition to the pharmaceutical drop box, the Lebanon Police Department also offers a Sharps Disposal Container where people can dispose of used and unwanted needles. Both containers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are free, environmentally friendly, and anonymous.
Miss out on Drug Takeback day?
Pharmaceutical Drop-Boxes throughout the UV:
36 Poverty Lane, Lebanon, NH 03766
24/7 • 603-448-1212
46 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755
24/7 • 603-643-2222
812 VA Cutoff Road, WRJ, VT 05001
24/7 • 802-295-9425
19 Main Street, Enfield, NH 03748
M-F 8am-4 pm • 603-632-7501
52 Route 118, Canaan, NH 03741
M-F 8am-2pm • 603-523-7400
454 East Woodstock Road, Woodstock, VT 05091
24/7 • 802-457-1420
29 Union Street, Windsor, VT 05089
24/7 • 802-674-9042
Lobby, 1 Police Court, Claremont, NH 03743
M-F 8am-12:30 pm & 1:30-5pm • 603-542-7015
Royalton Police Department
17 North Windsor Street, South Royalton, VT 05068
M-F 9am-4pm • 802-763-7776